The trapping deaths of two important wolves from a well-known pack in Alaska’s Denali National Park have conservationists calling for an immediate ban on trapping and the reinstatement of a buffer zone around the park that was eliminated by the Alaska Board of Game two years ago.
One of the wolves, a breeding female from the Grant Creek pack, was lured outside of the park and killed in a snare after a hunter shot a horse to use it as bait, which he left about one mile outside of the park. Another male was also found in a snare nearby.
Coke Wallace, the hunter who set the traps, scoffs at the idea of a buffer zone around the park, insists the wolf was starving anyway and that the wolves he kills have no impact on their population.
“If you start removing important adults from a family group, a wolf pack, particularly reproductive females, you could have the entire pack disintegrate,” said Rick Steiner, a professor and independent conservation biologist who likens trapping outside the park’s boundary to setting traps around a zoo with no fence.
According to Denali National Park biologist Tom Meier, the female Wallace snared may have looked thin, but had plenty of internal fat. “Coke’s wolf was in a trap for a week and was scavenged by a wolverine before he ever even saw it,” he told the LA Times. “These wolves aren’t starving.’”
The wolf population in the park is at a 20-year low, with just 70 wolves in nine packs. Their numbers are down from 103 wolves in 15 packs as recently as 2006, according to Meier. The only other breeding female was also recently found dead near her den, but appears to have died of natural causes.
Even more troubling is the post-mating season timing of this kill, leaving some to suspect she may have been pregnant, which is causing even more concern about the future of the pack.
“This is one of the most highly valuable, highly viewed wolf packs, not just in Alaska or the nation, but the world. And now they will not have pups this year, almost certainly,” said Steiner.
“It’s always disappointing to lose animals that close to the park boundary, and it also was disappointing because it was inside what used to be … the buffer zone,” said Meier.
Steiner has sent a proposal to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell asking that they overturn their moratorium on the decision to remove the buffer and to request an emergency end to wolf kills in the area outside the park.
Back to the horse …according to Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADFG), as unsavory as shooting an elderly horse, using it as bait and leaving it out in the woods to rot is, Wallace hasn’t technically done anything illegal. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), on the other hand, is at least looking into possible water quality violations. That’s probably a good thing since David Braun, who has a cabin nearby, discovered the carcass in a stream that feeds his and other residents’ water supply.
Must be nice to have such considerate neighbors.
Please sign and share the petition asking the Alaska Board of Game to reinstate a buffer zone around the park to protect wolves.
Photo credit: Thinkstock